Modern*Simplicity

Creating a Life Free From Chaos

10 Bad Habits That Are Killing Your Productivity

10 Bad Habits That Are Killing Your ProductivityWe all have a few bad habits that make themselves known in the amount of work we get done each day, whether we are stay-at-home moms, retired and loving it, or working for cash from home or outside of the house. We all have these little bad habits that are killing our productivity and keeping us from getting our best stuff done. Before we can change these habits, we need to recognize them for what they are.

I’ve narrowed it down to just 10 common bad habits that are absolutely killing your productivity. And not just your productivity at work, but your productivity in your everyday life, in the little tasks and projects you do every day.

Not having a morning routine

Not having a morning routine means that you’re starting your day off already behind. It means you may not know what you’re going to wear, what your kids are going to wear. You don’t know what you’re having for lunch, you don’t know what your kids are having for lunch. You didn’t check your calendar the night before so you probably don’t know what activities are planned for the day — what if your child needs to take something special into school? I have missed my fair share of crazy sock days, the “I needed a sack lunch for the field trip” days, and even the “it’s potluck day at work, weren’t you going to bring a pie?” days.

These situations can be avoided if you make it a habit to check your schedule as part of your morning routine (and ideally the night before as well). You also need to check the weather so you can dress appropriately and take that umbrella or gloves if you need them. Planning out your breakfast in advance or setting the coffee maker ahead of time on a timer means you don’t have to think about these things — they are part of your routine. I also use the alarm clock feature on my phone to set timers for when things need to happen in the morning, such as what time each kid needs to be at his respective school bus stop. It’s part of the routine — the kids hear the alarm go off and know it’s time to head to the bus. Everybody will make it to school and work on time.

Everything is simpler and a lot less stressful when everybody knows the order of events in the morning — they know what to expect. Starting off the morning as a mess can kill your productivity for the entire day. Start the day off right if you want to be ready to have a productive day.

Doing the easy stuff first

By doing the easy stuff first, you’re essentially procrastinating, which kills your productivity. You’re taking the hard stuff, which is probably the most important stuff, “your big rocks,” and putting them off until later, and the stuff that gets put off until “later” often doesn’t get done at all.

When I say easy stuff, I mean things like checking your email, checking social media, maybe even been doing the dishes or running a load of laundry. Yes, those things may be important, but they’re not your “big rocks” for the day. When you make your to-do list, it’s important to note which things are the most important and make them priority items. Then start your day by working on those items.

By tackling the most important stuff, the hard stuff, first, the rest of the day will be so much easier. You’re left with the smaller, easier tasks to fill in the rest of your day, and you can tackle those with the confidence and satisfaction that comes from crossing off those monster tasks early in the day.

Keeping your phone with you all the time

Keeping your phone with you all the time means that you’re probably being distracted by it, and that can kill your productivity. Even if your phone is on silent or vibrate, you’re probably still being distracted by it, because it’s hard to have your phone with you and not look at it to see if you’ve got a new message or if there’s that little notification icon on one of your apps.

It is OK to set your phone aside to get your work done. It is OK to set yourself phone aside so you can have quality time with your family. I keep my phone nearby while my kids are at school or if I’m away from my family, so I can be reached in an emergency. However when I’m working on deep work or I’m with my family, my phone tends to be on silent, often left in some other room for a while so I’m not tempted to look at it.

It is OK to set your phone aside to get your work done. It is OK to set yourself phone aside so you can have quality time with your family. Click To Tweet

In this day and age, it’s far too easy to be distracted by your phone without even realizing you’re doing it. Being distracted by your phone will not only kill your productivity but can pull your attention away from your family and friends and distract you from the work you’re trying to do. It’s too easy to be distracted by the little screen that goes with us everywhere, so make sure you have some boundaries so it doesn’t kill your productivity and steal your happiness and relationships.

Mindless browsing on the Internet or social media

Another bad habit that kills your productivity is mindless browsing on the Internet and social media, on your phone, on your tablet, and on your computer. Whether you’re at work, out and about, or at home, it’s way too easy to get in the habit of sitting around mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, flipping through Pinterest, perusing the images on Instagram, or randomly clicking links all over the Internet just “surfing the net” as we used to say.

But is this keeping you from doing more important work? It probably is. Surfing the Internet is one of the prime candidates for killing your productivity because it’s such an easy distraction when you’re sitting at your computer trying to get work done. It’s easy to open that next little browser tab or click just one more link. It’s imperative that you either learn how to keep the tabs closed or you can turn off your Internet connection completely to get your stuff done.

There are apps available where you can set times that will block off certain websites, such as Facebook or Twitter, until you’ve completed a certain amount of work or a specified amount of time. They can also completely block certain websites within certain hours so you can’t be tempted to go play on the Internet while you’re supposed to be working.

I think it’s best to train yourself to not be distracted, even though it is incredibly hard. However, this mindless browsing is what is keeping you from being your best productive self so you can spend more time doing the things you really want to do.

Multitasking

There was a time when we thought multitasking was the key to being productive — but we were wrong. It turns out that our brains are just not wired for multitasking, and when we try to do more than one thing at a time, our attention is divided too much. We can do one activity at a time very well, or we can do multiple activities at once only “kind of OK.”

There was a time when we thought multitasking was the key to being productive — but we were wrong. Click To Tweet

It is much faster, much better, and therefore more productive to actually do one thing at a time and give that task your full attention. I’m not talking about running a load of laundry while you’re also trying to write an article. That’s different because you’re not actually scrubbing the laundry on a rock in a river. It’s fine to do something like that where you’re starting a load of laundry in the machine or running the dishwasher while you are working on a computer in the other room. You’re not actually doing these things manually at the same time.

It is not possible to concentrate on listening to an audio course while also writing an article that is due for a client while also helping your child with his math homework. You’ll end up not doing any of those things very well. So take the time to actually concentrate on one item at a time so that you can do it the best of your ability. You’ll do it faster, you’ll do it better, and you’ll be more productive while you’re doing it.

Not prioritizing your to-do list

We spoke a little bit about this when we talked about doing the easy stuff first, but it warrants its own mention here. By not prioritizing your to-do list, you are killing your productivity. Not everything you need to do is of the same importance — the tasks on your list have different degrees of importance and urgency.

In Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about dividing your tasks by their order of importance and urgency. You can also keep it even simpler than that: by writing out your to-do list each night and starring or highlighting the items that are the most important that you must take care of the next day.

The key part is that you need to choose just one or two items on your to-do list that are the biggest priority on your list, so you know what you need to start the day with. Ask yourself, “what is the most important thing that I need to accomplish today so that I know my day was a success?” You will kill your productivity if you treat all tasks as being equal.

Need a new way to organize your to-do list? Download my free printable one here.

You will kill your productivity if you treat all tasks as being equal. Click To Tweet

Overplanning

I love to plan — planners are one of my favorite things. I love to sit down with a fresh planner and new pens and start mapping out my week, making to-do lists, and figuring out how I’m going to divide up tasks in the big projects that I’m working on. I’m a master at Google Calendar, and it’s a running joke that I live and die by my calendar. However, when it comes down to it, over planning can actually kill your productivity.

When you start planning every task down to the very last detail, it can actually stop you in your tracks. You get to the point where you have planned so much and gotten everything so detailed that it actually makes it hard for you to even start — the whole process becomes too overwhelming. There needs to be room within your planning for spontaneity and changes. Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, and by over planning, you’re killing your productivity since you’re not allowing for those little changes, the little things that may go wrong, and instead, you’re holding yourself to a level of perfection that is simply not possible.

When you start planning every task down to the very last detail, it can actually stop you in your tracks. The whole process becomes too overwhelming. Click To Tweet

When you over plan, you’re killing your productivity before you even start. So yes, it is great to have an outline and a general idea of where you’re going and a plan of how you’re going to get there, but don’t take it too far and plan it down to the last detail.

Perfectionism

I briefly touched on this when we talked about over planning, but I want to highlight it because it is such a big obstacle to productivity. Perfectionism will kill your productivity. I cannot stress that enough. Perfectionism is the biggest killer of productivity. Trust me — I’m a recovering perfectionist.

We are not perfect, we never will be, and trying to be perfect is going to make things come to a screeching halt. If you try to make everything exactly perfect, you will get nowhere.

I mentioned before that I love to plan, and I love planners. One of the things about my paper planner though, and I know other people have the same problem, is that I’m always afraid of “messing it up.” I don’t like having to mark out something in my planner, scribble something out because I made a mistake, anything like that. I have been so afraid of my planner not looking perfect that I’ve been known to stall on even using it. If I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, I didn’t want to write it down for fear of having a mistake in my planner that would make it not perfect.

But we’re not perfect, and part of the process of getting your stuff done is making allowances for the things that come up that make life the way it is. You can’t be so afraid of making mistakes that you don’t even start. There will be mistakes, and you have to be willing to scratch them off and start again. Perfectionism can kill your productivity if you let it, so just grab the White Out and get to work. Or do what I did, and buy erasable pens.

Saying yes all the time

By saying yes all the time, it means you may be saying no to things that are actually most important to you. Saying yes means you’re not taking into account the things that you are most interested in and the things that are most important to you. To live your best, most intentional life, you have to learn to say no. No has to become one of the most used words in your vocabulary.

No is the word that is going to keep your schedule the most streamlined, productive, and the most fulfilling that it can be.

Self-doubt

To live your most productive life, you have to leave the bad habit of self-doubt at the door. Self-doubt is killing your productivity because it’s making you procrastinate and delay your decisions. By not feeling confident in yourself, you’re delaying taking action on any kind of plans that you want to make. Whether it’s going back to school to get your degree, buying a new home, making that move across the country, or even just painting your bedroom, you have to be confident that you can make the right decisions to get rid of that self-doubt. You can’t let self-doubt keep you behind.

Self-doubt is killing your productivity because it’s making you procrastinate and delay your decisions. Click To Tweet

Your best, most intentional life is only going to come about when you feel confident that you are making the best decisions for yourself in the now, no matter what the outcome is in the future. None of us know the future. None of us are perfect, but we’re all doing the best we can. Don’t let self-doubt kill your productivity and keep you from getting the stuff done that you really want to do.

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10 Bad Habits That Are Killing Your Productivity

Do You Feel Like You’re Always Behind? 7 Ways to Conquer the Overwhelm

Do You Feel Like You're Always Behind? 7 Ways to Conquer the Overwhelm“I have so much to do, it’s insane.”

“My to-do list is a mile long.”

“I will never catch up.”

Sound familiar? Do you feel like you’re behind, like you’ll never get caught up? That feeling of being behind causes some serious overwhelm, and that overwhelm blurs your vision and clouds your thoughts. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because that overwhelm kills both your creativity and your productivity.

Overwhelm can cause frantic action, when you’re thinking, “I’ll work really hard and get all this stuff done so I can finally breathe.” The rushing causes you to feel super stressed, and you’re not sure how long you can keep up the pace. Your productivity suffers as your attention stretches too thin.

Or maybe that overwhelm paralyzes you — you aren’t sure what to do first, what is most important because it all seems important, it all seems urgent. So you do nothing because you just can’t deal.

Overwhelm kills both your creativity and your productivity. Click To Tweet

Both of these scenarios send your mind to negative places, and you find that you’re beating yourself up for taking too much on, for not being productive enough, for not working hard enough. The negativity spirals until the overwhelm wins.

Change your thinking

The key to conquering that overwhelming feeling of being behind is to change your thinking. Focusing on the past, on the things you didn’t get done, will get you stuck and set you up for failure. Instead, focus on what you can do, what you can control.

Think about what is truly important to you. We try to be everything to everyone, but in reality, we may actually be accomplishing nothing because we are not focused. What is one big thing you want to work on right now? Is it something you can focus on for the next month?

7 ways to conquer the overwhelm

  1. Whenever possible, put like activities together. I have two kids. They always go to the dentist together, on the same day, same time, so I only have to deal with it once. Doctor appointments are always scheduled one right after the other. If I have errands to run, I’ll set aside time to do them all in one day. Think of it as batching tasks.
  2. Before you add any task, ask yourself if it’s something you really need or want to do. Don’t fill your calendar with stuff you hate just for the sake of doing things. It’s OK to say no and create margin in your days.
  3. Organize your task list. Go through your to-do list, and reorganize your tasks. Cross off anything that you really don’t need or want to do. Group similar tasks together, such as errands, phone calls, emails, online work, home tasks, etc. Mark the most urgent tasks with a 1, important but not urgent tasks as a 2, and tasks that aren’t urgent or vital with a 3. Make it a goal to do at least one #1 task per day.
  4. Done is better than perfect. We often procrastinate because we think we won’t be able to do the task perfectly, and that leads to projects staying on your to-do list for far too long, creating that “left behind” feeling. You do nothing because you don’t think you’ll do it well enough. It’s hard to perfect something that isn’t there, so how do you plan to make your project good enough when you don’t have a place to start from?
  5. Do it now. Whenever possible, start the task right away. Don’t put it off. Recognize that you won’t have more energy, or more time, or more inspiration, tomorrow. Make it as easy as possible to start now.
  6. Schedule time to check email, social media, read the news, any of those little habits you tend to do throughout the day. Don’t use them to fill the time, or to distract you from more important tasks. Write down when you’re going to do them, and for how long. Put that in your calendar or post a sticky note somewhere that you’ll see every day and follow that schedule. Don’t let those little habits take you away from tasks you need to finish.
  7. Check your phone and delete all those little apps that you waste time on. Remember Candy Crush? I could waste hours on that game. Maybe it’s not a game that distracts you. Is it social media? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Delete those apps from your phone now, at least as an experiment. Same goes for iPad. Try it for a week, and see if you get more time back to focus on more important things.

Will you ever finish every task on your to-do list? No, none of us will, so making “to-do list zero” isn’t a viable option. Give yourself some grace, organize your tasks, and be thoughtful about adding more to your plate. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re not behind at all.

Give yourself some grace, organize your tasks, and be thoughtful about adding more to your plate. Click To Tweet

Do You Feel Like You're Always Behind? 7 Ways to Conquer the Overwhelm